Big East Q&A: Regular Season Finale Edition

Posted by Brad Cavallaro & Justin Kundrat on March 7th, 2019

Time is running out in conference play and there is still much to be decided. Big East microsite writers Justin Kundrat and Brad Cavallaro teamed up this week to break down several of the conference’s key questions heading into the final weekend of regular season action.

BC: We have this giant logjam in the middle of the conference. Which team, if any, do you think emerge from this group to make a Big East Tournament run?

Creighton Might be Poised to Make a Big East Tournament Run (USA Today Images)

JK: I think the logjam has two primary causes: a down year for the conference, and significant improvements from some of the recent bottom-dwellers (St. John’s, DePaul, Georgetown). That said, it has certainly made a mess of things when evaluating the bubble and projecting the Big East Tournament! Prior to Tuesday night, the easy answer for a dark horse team would have been Xavier, but the Musketeers’ 0.96 points per possession outing at Butler is an easy reminder of the team’s inconsistencies, particularly in shooting. Give me Creighton instead, a team with the second most efficient offense in the conference and currently riding a four-game winning streak. Things have really started clicking for Greg McDermott‘s group, and it’s good to see Martin Krampelj back to his old pre-injury self.

BC: St. John’s has been one of the most enigmatic teams in the country. Who is to blame for its inconsistency, their coach (Chris Mullin), their star (Shamorie Ponds), or their supporting cast?

JK: Blaming the coach usually feels like a cop-out to me, but it’s hard to blame the players when there is so much talent on paper along with maddening year-over-year inconsistency within the program. I know Mustapha Heron (15.1 PPG) has been battling tendinitis, but a disjointed offensive style of play has been in vogue with this team all season, with or without him. Ponds has been nothing short of fantastic, putting together arguably his most efficient season of his career, and some of the supporting cast has seen more time and production lately. In fact, the offense has been just fine — it is the defense that is holding this team back. More often than not, that’s a coaching and game-planning flaw.

BC: After Seton Hall’s upset victory over Marquette, are the Pirates locked into the NCAA Tournament field?

JK: I think so. Winning against Villanova on Saturday would obviously seal an NCAA Tournament bid, but even with a loss, the Pirates already have five Quadrant 1 wins, which puts them head and shoulders above most of their bubble competition. The only reservation I have is that an 18-12 (8-10 Big East) record isn’t too pretty. It’s tough to know how the Big East Tournament bracket will shake out, but the Pirates would be best served by winning one game next week to feel completely safe.

BC: Marquette has now dropped three straight games. How worried should we be about the Golden Eagles?

Is Marquette in Trouble? (USA Today Images)

JK: We asked the same questions about Villanova after its three-game skid and they course corrected fairly quickly. It’s certainly scary to see a team that’s scoring 1.14 points per possession all season (30th nationally) plummet to average just 0.91 PPP over its last three games, but I think this is a blip driven by either late-season fatigue or a Markus Howard shooting slump. I don’t think teams have suddenly “figured out” how to guard him, but it’s also worth noting that none of the trio of losses were all that bad: They were a five-point underdog at Villanova, a seven-point favorite versus Creighton and a two-point favorite at Seton Hall. In other words, it happens, and people will forget about it in a week.

BC: The Big East has one of the strongest bottom tiers in the history of the conference. Is it impressive that these teams are bunched so close together or does it speak to the mediocrity of the league?

JK: I think it’s both. There are no elite teams in the Big East this season, which makes it easier for the bottom-tier teams to collect wins. But also, DePaul, St. John’s and Georgetown have come a long way since last year. It’s crazy to think that nearly every team in the conference was on the bubble at some point or another this season, and that speaks volumes to the collective talent in the league.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *